PITTSBURGH – A volunteer for John McCain's presidential campaign agreed Thursday to enter a probation program for first-time offenders for falsely reporting that a Barack Obama supporter robbed and assaulted her and scratched a "B" on her cheek.
Ashley Todd, 20, of College Station, Texas, claimed the attack happened when a robber saw her McCain bumper sticker. Todd appeared before a city judge and waived her right to a hearing and was to be released from jail later Thursday.
Under the agreement, her criminal record will be expunged after if she stays out of trouble and gets mental treatment on probation. Most people spend a year on probation in the program, which is for first-time, nonviolent offenders.
"Our focus was really, 'This is somebody who appeared to have some mental issues,'" said prosecutor Chris Avetta. "And we wanted to make sure she doesn't hurt herself or anybody else."
Todd's public defender, Emily McNally, declined to comment.
Todd initially told investigators she was attempting to use a bank ATM on Oct. 22 when a 6-foot-4 black man approached her from behind, put a knife to her throat and demanded money. She told police she handed the assailant $60 and walked away.
Todd, who is white, told investigators she suspected the man then noticed a McCain sticker on her car. She said the man punched her in the back of the head, knocked her to the ground and scratched a backward letter "B" into her face with a dull knife.
After admitting she made up the story, the woman told investigators she believed she cut the "B" onto her own cheek but didn't remember doing so, police said last week.
She was charged with a misdemeanor count of making a false police report and had been jailed since Oct. 24. She underwent a court-ordered psychiatric examination and was deemed to be competent to stand trial but in need of further counseling.
The charge Todd faced carries a maximum two-year jail sentence. Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said Todd must abide by the conditions of her release or risk being prosecuted on the charge.
"I think what she needed mostly was counseling," Bryant said. "The only one she actually hurt was herself, although there could have been so many other ramifications based on her actions."
The case generated national media attention when a picture showing Todd with a black eye and the red "B" on her cheek was posted online.
Initial reports of the mugging prompted calls of support from McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, and his running mate, Sarah Palin. The College Republican National Committee at first criticized the attack, then fired and disowned Todd once the hoax was exposed.